Do You Need a Meeting?
Meetings can be very efficient, or they can waste time. To ensure that you conduct an efficient meeting, you first need to ask yourself: is a meeting actually required?
You should only use meetings to discuss topics that are too complex to tackle asynchronously or via chat. Wanting to get a fast answer is not a reason for a meeting.
The Cost of Meetings
It is crucial to be objective about meeting needs because of their cost. It does not seem like much on the surface, but it can be immense.
If we take the example of a one-hour meeting between three people, the meeting costs three direct person-hours. When we factor in the indirect cost of context switching, this meeting costs a half-day of work in total.
Now, suppose a typically large meeting including 10 participants. Ten person-hour have now been spent in the meeting. It totals to more than an entire workday.
Preparing a Meeting
There are five requirements to lead an efficient meeting:
- A thoughtful list of participants. Do not invite someone who is not needed; you would be wasting their time.
- A meeting lead who will keep the meeting on track.
- A clear agenda.
- An expected outcome.
- A time-box. Strive for 30 minutes or less whenever possible. (With a clear agenda and expected outcome, you’ll be surprised by how much can be accomplished in little time.)
You must share the above five points with all participants before the meeting. It will allow all contributors to prepare and know what to expect from the meeting.
Leading a Meeting
The meeting leader is responsible for ensuring that the group achieves the expected outcome.
There are many subtilities to leading a meeting efficiently. There are entire books dedicated to the topic. For now, let’s focus on the basics.
The meeting leader needs to:
- Introduce the meeting at the beginning (i.e., remind everyone of the agenda and repeat the expected outcome).
- Encourage participants to contribute (e.g., by probing or asking direct questions; this requires knowing everyone’s expertise).
- If the conversation gets off track (i.e., not leading to the expected outcome), politely bring it back to the agenda.
- Define the end of the meeting. It can be difficult (and even awkward) to understand when a meeting should be over. The discussion needs to end once the group has reached the expected outcome.
During & After a Meeting
Do not forget to take notes during the meeting and write down action points discussed by the group. Then share it with all the meeting participants after the meeting.
Meeting Agenda Template
When organizing a meeting it is recommended that you use the following format to prepare and share the meeting agenda with all participants.
# Participants Meeting lead: outline the one person who is leading the meeting - List all meeting participants # Agenda - [ ] List the points that need to be addressed during the meeting ## Expected Outcome Describe or list what we should achieve with the meeting and the resources to be produced (if any). # Notes Add the meeting notes here. # Action Points - [ ] Add follow-up actions if necessary **with an owner for each action**